Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Opinions Issued By the Attorney General

An entry from Shepard's Citations for
Chapter 796 of the 1949 Acts, providing a
reference to page 29 of the 1949 Report
of the Attorney General   
Legislators, state officials, agencies, and district attorneys often require advice on the legality or constitutionality of a law or issue that has an “immediate concrete relation to the official duties of the state agency or officer requesting the opinion.”  The Attorney General is authorized to provide formal opinions and legal advice on such matters if the request falls within the scope of the AG’s requirements, and these opinions are published in the AG’s annual reports (also known as Public Document 12).  For current information on the types of requests to which the AG will and will not respond, you can visit the office’s opinions overview page.  However, it is important to know that, as of right now, the last formal opinion issued by the AG was on October 11th, 2001.

State and federal legislation, as well as case law, are almost always referenced in the opinions depending on the subject.  Often pieces of legislation are the main subject about which the AG opines, and there are a few ways to see if the legislation you are researching was once submitted for review. One way is by using Shepard’s Citations and/or Westlaw’s KeyCite, which provide citations to relevant opinions (ex. 1949MaAG29).  The editors of the annotated editions of the Massachusetts General Laws also provide citations, but are selective as to which they include.

A helpful hint when researching: prior to 1968, opinions were not numbered individually.  Any citations to opinions that were issued before 1968 will refer to the page number of the report; later citations refer to the assigned opinion number.

Researchers should also keep in mind that the Massachusetts fiscal year begins on July 1st and ends on the following June 30th.

Want to access a report but can’t visit the State Library?  The library maintains a digital collection of reports of the Attorney General in our DSpace electronic documents repository, starting from 1832 up to the most current issue.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department